The Package review (Blu-ray)

As a stunt performer, Johnson has recently worked on Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master as well as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Although his directorial credits don’t boast such prestigious titles, Johnson is a man of many talents, who, as a director, isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Straight-to-video action movies come with simple expectations a nuts and bolts plot, a brisk runtime with large slices of combat, and an action movie affiliate or two who may not be in the prime of their career, but can still bang a few heads together. Director Johnson is happy to oblige, casting a pair of Expendables, with former WWE champion Austin and former Master of the Universe Lundgren providing the prerequisite muscle.

The Package is effectively a vehicle for the rapidly forming straight-to-video specialist Austin (who, post-WWE has dropped the "Stone Cold" moniker). He stars as Tommy, an ex-military man who realizes his strength is, well, his strength, and that he can make more money doing Big Doug’s (Keenleyside) dirty work then he can as a bouncer. A reluctant hero, Tommy shares more than a hairstyle with John McClane. Ageing, selflessly motivated and acting only out of self-preservation, Tommy must deliver the titular package to Lundgren’s enigmatic The German, if only it were that easy.

As if biceps controlled his face, Lundgren delivers his lines in a manor fellow Expendable Sylvester Stallone would be proud. His character The German, absent for the most part, appears only fleetingly throughout, at one point extorting information from a cowering goon in a scene that’s not only informative, but features some of the most passive-aggressive smoothie making known to cinema.

With every part not played by an "expendable" somewhat ironically sidelined, existing only to explain the oddly convoluted yet ultimately simple plot or to be violently dispatched, The Package rises and falls with Austin, and try as he may, Austin is not an actor. Despite director Johnson’s attempts, twice showing Tommy stripped-down in front of a mirror, these moments of solitude fall short of any real pathos. Austin isn’t free of charisma, but he lacks the energy someone like, fellow wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and the film suffers for it. Even the action scenes, Austin’s would be bread and butter, are lumbering and stilted. With the right role and the right director, Austin could be an effective on-screen presence, though whether this is as a leading man remains to be seen.

EXTRAS Just the trailer.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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